Why Would a Cat Cough?

Cats are known for being graceful and elegant animals, but just like humans, they can experience health issues from time to time. One common problem that cat owners may notice is their feline friend coughing. While it may be alarming to see your cat coughing, it is important to understand that it can be caused by a variety of reasons. In this article, we will explore the potential causes of cat coughing and provide answers to some frequently asked questions to help you better understand this issue.

Causes of Cat Coughing:

1. Hairballs: Hairballs are a common cause of coughing in cats. When cats groom themselves, they inevitably swallow hair, which can accumulate in their stomach. As a result, they may cough or gag while trying to expel the hairball.

2. Respiratory infections: Cats can catch respiratory infections, such as the feline herpes virus or feline calicivirus, which can lead to coughing. These infections are usually accompanied by other symptoms like sneezing, nasal discharge, or fever.

3. Allergies: Just like humans, cats can be allergic to various substances, including pollen, dust mites, or certain foods. Allergies can cause coughing and other respiratory symptoms.

4. Asthma: Cats can develop asthma, a chronic inflammation of the airways, which can cause coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing.

5. Heartworm disease: Although more common in dogs, cats can also contract heartworm disease. Coughing can be a symptom of this potentially dangerous condition.

6. Foreign object ingestion: Cats, especially curious kittens, may swallow small objects that can get lodged in their airway, leading to coughing or choking.

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7. Lung diseases: Various lung diseases, such as pneumonia or bronchitis, can cause coughing in cats.

8. Heart disease: Certain heart conditions, like congestive heart failure, can result in coughing due to fluid accumulation in the lungs.

9. Irritants or pollutants: Exposure to irritants or pollutants, such as cigarette smoke or strong cleaning products, can cause coughing in cats.

10. Tumors: Although less common, tumors in the respiratory system can lead to coughing.

11. Stress or anxiety: Cats can experience stress or anxiety, which may manifest as coughing, along with other behavioral changes.

FAQs about Cat Coughing:

1. Is cat coughing an emergency?
It depends on the severity and duration of the cough. If your cat is experiencing difficulty breathing or the cough persists for more than a day, it is advisable to seek veterinary attention.

2. Should I be concerned if my cat occasionally coughs?
Occasional coughing may not be a cause for concern, especially if it is related to hairballs. However, if the cough becomes frequent or is accompanied by other symptoms, it’s best to consult a veterinarian.

3. Can hairballs be prevented?
Regular grooming, including brushing your cat’s fur, can help reduce hairball formation. Additionally, specialized cat food or hairball remedies can aid in preventing their formation.

4. Can I treat my cat’s cough at home?
It depends on the cause of the cough. While hairballs or mild allergies may resolve on their own, other underlying conditions require veterinary intervention. Always consult a professional before attempting to treat your cat at home.

5. How can I differentiate between a hairball cough and a respiratory infection?
A hairball cough is usually accompanied by retching or gagging sounds, while a respiratory infection cough may be accompanied by sneezing, nasal discharge, or fever.

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6. Can cats have allergies?
Yes, cats can have allergies, and they can manifest as coughing, sneezing, itching, or gastrointestinal issues. Consult your veterinarian to identify the specific allergen and develop a management plan.

7. Can cats develop asthma later in life?
Yes, cats can develop asthma at any age. If you suspect your cat has asthma, consult a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment.

8. Can I prevent my cat from swallowing foreign objects?
Supervising your cat during playtime and keeping small objects out of their reach can help prevent them from swallowing foreign objects.

9. Is heartworm disease preventable in cats?
Yes, there are preventive measures available for cats, including medications prescribed by your veterinarian.

10. Can stress or anxiety cause coughing in cats?
Yes, stress or anxiety can manifest in various ways, including coughing. Identifying and minimizing stressors can help alleviate this symptom.

11. Can certain cat breeds be more prone to coughing?
Some cat breeds, such as Persians or Himalayans, may be prone to respiratory issues due to their facial structure. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean they will develop coughing.


Coughing in cats can be caused by a range of factors, including hairballs, respiratory infections, allergies, asthma, or more serious conditions such as heart disease or tumors. While occasional coughing may not be cause for alarm, persistent or severe coughing should prompt a visit to the veterinarian. By understanding the potential causes and seeking appropriate veterinary care, you can ensure your feline companion receives the necessary treatment and care to alleviate their coughing and maintain their overall health.

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